D.C. seeks funds for snow cleanup

The District is seeking federal funds to help offset the costs associated with a storm that dropped nearly a foot and a half of snow on the region last month.

The District Department of Transportation’s annual budget for snowstorm cleanup is $6.2 million, spokesman John Lisle said Friday, and the late-December storm cost approximately $4 million.

GW officials have not yet determined a price tag for the storm, which caused the last day of final exams to be canceled and stranded more than 1,000 students on campus due to hundreds of train and flight cancellations.

“The record snowfall challenged the University and stretched resources much like it did for the D.C. and other regional governments, with crews working around the clock to clear the campus of snow,” Alicia O’Neil, senior associate vice president for operations, said in an e-mail.

O’Neil said GW was well-prepared for the blizzard, with equipment and supplies already on-hand and work schedules made before the snowstorm hit. The snow plan also set snow removal contracts for the Mount Vernon and Virginia Science and Technology Campuses.

“In terms of costs, we have not yet pulled together a calculation of costs associated with facilities’ efforts at managing this weather event, however, the vast majority of these costs will be attributable to labor and overtime for the required manpower,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said the University received many favorable comments from students and the community about GW’s response to the snowfall.

While students were supposed to move out of residence halls for winter break by noon on Dec. 20, GW Housing Programs kept residence halls open until the evening of Dec. 21 and any students stranded due to transportation issues could stay longer.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty declared a snow emergency in the District the evening of Dec. 18, which went into effect Dec. 19 and was lifted Dec. 21.

“It has to be a snow emergency to seek assistance,” said Jack Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Fenty’s office.

Pfeiffer confirmed Friday that the District is seeking federal assistance for the snowstorm, but had no other information at the time about when aid would be received.

The transportation department and the Department of Public Works worked together during the storm as the “District Snow Team” to clear nearly 1,100 miles of roadway, according to a news release from Fenty’s office. Salt and snow plows were used throughout the weekend as workers took on 12-hour shifts to clear streets.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Web site, the last time federal funds were authorized for the District because of a snowstorm was in 2003.

The near-record snowfall that occurred Feb. 16 and 17 of 2003 was reviewed by FEMA, and a month later President George W. Bush ordered the assistance under an emergency declaration.

“Under the emergency declaration, FEMA will provide reimbursement for 75 percent of the total eligible costs of equipment, contracts, and personnel overtime related to emergency services in dealing with the snow over a 48-hour period,” a March 14, 2003 FEMA news release announcing the assistance stated.

Other emergency protective measures, like salting roads and shelter operations, were eligible for reimbursement as well.

That 2003 President’s Day weekend blizzard dropped over 18 inches of snow on the city, the biggest snowstorm the District had seen since 1996.

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